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DISABILITY DOESN’T EQUAL POVERTY

More than 91 million consumers with disabilities live in Europe. They wield more than $406 billion in annual discretionary income. Yet, still, 2014 consumer surveys reveal, widespread, unpleasant, retail shopping experiences for European consumers with disabilities. The surveys report that unpleasant experiences, including poor accommodations and unhelpful staff attitudes, are pushing many consumers with disabilities to shop online. 

Some 100 people with different disabilities between the ages of 16 and 30 report that they struggle to even gain access to many shops, cafes and restaurants. Some customers said they felt “invisible” after being ignored by rude and insensitive staff who addressed their companions or caregivers, instead of them directly. 

A 17-year-old survey participant with minicore myopathy said, “As much as I love shopping, sometimes it can feel like a military operation. No matter how much planning I do, there are always problems. Even if I can get into the store, the shop floor can feel like an obstacle course. I can barely move between the packed clothes rails and steps between levels – meaning some areas of the shop are completely out of bounds.”

75% percent of the survey respondents say they essentially felt they were left with no choice other than to shop online. What the survey respondents are really saying they want can be boiled down to one essential point: A meaningful customer experience.

Canadians with disabilities influence the buying decisions of more than 11 million family members and friends, along with their more than $311 billion in annual discretionary income. 


However, 10 years of observation, analysis of published company materials, and retail audits reveals that only 34% of the largest 282 publicly traded companies in Canada demonstrate any kind of business related mention of disability. Even more alarming, research further reveals that these efforts are rarely backed up by strategy, process or budget. Of the 282 firms analyzed, only  10% are actively engaging this market with publicly observable effort.

This same research reveals that the majority of business-related disability focus in Canada is on legal compliance regulating employment and customer service practices.

Legal compliance does not attract, invite, and engage consumers with disabilities, our families, or friends. 

It is time to focus on including consumers of all different abilities, backgrounds, cultures, and languages in the meaningful experience that your products, services, and environments offer, through “Harmony at Work”.

The world of disability has been deeply rooted in medical terms for the last two centuries. The standard definition is: a medical condition that substantially limits one or more activities of daily living. Typically, that is seen as a physical or intellectual “impairment from the norm” as defined by a clinician. But, disability is just as much how an individual sees him/herself, or how society perceives that individual. Under what condition, time, and environment an individual considers themselves, or society considers them, disabled is an open question that is complicated by perspective.


Disability is not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

​A LITTLE BIT OF CONSCIOUS EFFORT MAKES A TREMENDOUS IMPACT

Companies and investors seeking to capitalize big returns on little investment, in a market rewarding innovation are now targeting consumers with disabilities in their business development strategies. However, most have yet to step beyond legal obligation and civic duty, into market recognition and capitalization. Consumers with disabilities are increasingly more self-aware of the significant impact that our buying power makes on your bottom line. Thus, we choose to make well-informed, calculated purchases, based on a number of emotional, rather than practical factors (i.e. how we feel about our customer experience). 


Persons with Disabilities are more than just wheelchair users, and service dog owners. However, they are the group that receives the most public attention. That is because it is easier for legacy programs to use visuals to deliver a fund-raising message. But, in all actuality, 75% of all disabilities are hidden, or invisible. Those with visible disabilities and those with invisible disabilities may have different identities because of their disability, but we have one pertinent, common, interest. We all want to share in the same life experiences as our non-disabled counterparts, without being unintentionally stigmatized as different.


More than 2 billion consumers and employees, worldwide, controlling nearly $7 trillion in discretionary income, annually, are considered to be family members and friends of consumers with disabilities.  They have an intimate reason to understand disability and its impact on those that they have an emotional connection with. Formal discussions with this group reveal that Friends and Family are “evangelists” that act on an emotional response to the experiences of persons with disabilities in the consumer marketplace. This has profound ramifications for any company, whether you are targeting, or ignoring, the consumers with disabilities demographic.


MEANINGFUL & AUTHENTIC VALIDATION IS A DEMAND, NOT A REQUEST 

It is critical to view persons with disabilities as part of the mainstream market, and not isolate us as consumers. All too often, companies conceive products and services, conjure up land-use developments, websites, or building concepts and think, “now I need to make them accessible”. Persons with disabilities demand more than just the ability to use your products and services, or function in your physical and virtual environments. We demand to be included in the very same experiences that we see and hear our non-disabled family members, and friends, having. Accessibility and Universal Design merely create separate, but equal experiences. 


It is time to focus on including consumers of all different abilities, backgrounds, cultures, and languages in the meaningful experience that your products, services, and environments offer, through “Harmony at Work”.



More than 60 million persons with disabilities live in the United States. Over 4 million are home to California. More than 3 million live in Florida, and an excess of 2 million reside in New York. These are the wealthiest states in the country.

So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Americans with disabilities possess more than $544 billion in discretionary income, out of over $1 trillion in annual earnings. 

That's twice the amount controlled by the U.S. Hispanic community in 1990 (the point at which Latinos became an identifiable market segment for companies to serve). The U.S. disability market is three times the size of the U.S. Hispanic market, today.

American’s with disabilities influence an additional $4 trillion in spending power that is possessed by more than 105 million family members and friends. Be that as it may, 10 years of observation, analysis of published company materials, and retail audits reveals that only 31% of the largest US-based companies demonstrate any kind of business-related mention of disability. Of the 639 firms analyzed, just 7% are actively engaging this market with publicly observable effort. 

This, experience of consumers with disabilities, good or bad, influences the buying decisions of more than 168 million additional European consumers, considered to be their family members and friends, with more than $3 trillion in discretionary income of their own. 

Disability Demographics


Very few companies understand the size and complexity of the consumers with disabilities demographic. Helix Opportunity has the data points, and research.

Persons with disabilities are a lucrative, driving economic force, amassing wealth, the world over. Still, we are an untapped global population rivaling the size of China. Consumers with disabilities are, potentially, your most powerful ally in a marketplace takeover.

G10 economies have been working towards including persons with disabilities to actively, and fully, participate in society and the economy since 1972. The initial beneficiaries of these efforts now command nearly $2 trillion in annual earnings. The demographics of the aging baby-boomer population are increasing the number of persons with disabilities, and their market wealth, on a daily basis.


As Boomers’ physical realities change, their need and desire to remain active in society harmonizes with the demands of the disability community. These seniors, age 50 and older, control a larger share of G10 national wealth than any previous generation. The result is three generations of skilled consumers who have similar needs, emerging identities and tremendous buying power. The Baby-Boomer population represents more than 77 million people, controlling more than $19 trillion in household earnings. 50% of this aging G10 population lives with one or more disabilities. These seniors have re-defined every generation they have touched. They are characterized as being dragged into old age, kicking and screaming.

More than 6 million consumers with disabilities live in Canada. These Canadians with disabilities control more than $46 billion in discretionary income. Unfortunately, consumers with disabilities are largely perceived as a niche market in Canada. Therefore the Canadian culture of diversity is far less developed than in the United States.